Morphological analysis and radiocarbon dating of non-returning boomerangs from Cooper Creek/Kinipapa (Northeast South Australia)

Amy Roberts, Sean Freeman, Daryl Wesley, Vladimir Levchenko, Linda Barry, Luc Bordes, Katheryn Litherland, Jason Litherland, Joshua Haynes, Aaron Paterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we present the results of a morphological analysis of four mostly complete non-returning boomerangs and one shaped wooden fragment recovered in 2017 and 2018 from Cooper Creek near Innamincka in South Australia’s far northeast. This archaeological collection forms one of only six known/published wooden artefact assemblages in the country. We also detail the results of the direct accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon (AMS 14C) measurement of the artefacts which range from circa 275–175 BP (1650–1830 cal AD, median ages reported). Given that the age estimates obtained for the artefacts are from the recent period, we have complemented the morphological analysis by interpreting the assemblage within the context of ethnohistorical records and Traditional Owner knowledge. The assemblage reveals a variety of forms and functions representative of the diverse cultural activities and daily lives of the Aboriginal people who lived near significant waterholes in the Cooper Creek region during this period. The boomerangs also preserve manufacture and use-wear traces, providing insights into the life histories of each implement. In addition to their likely use as projectiles, our results indicate that the boomerangs were probably used for fighting, hunting, digging, fire management and possibly in ceremonies. Predictions for climate change in the region threaten to alter the conditions that allowed the preservation of these artefacts which may negatively affect the potential survival of other wooden objects that remain in the environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-48
Number of pages18
JournalAustralian Archaeology
Issue number1
Early online date3 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Wooden technology
  • boomerangs
  • throwing sticks
  • radiocarbon dating
  • Cooper Creek
  • Waterholes
  • South Australia
  • waterholes


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